Category: Featured

ESA commits to 7 Ariane 6 missions for 2021-2023, clearing way for ArianeGroup batch order of 14 rockets

The OneWeb satellite-broadband company contracted to launch 30 satellites on the inaugural Ariane 6 flight in mid-2020, with two options included in the contract. Credit: ArianeGroup
KIEV, Ukraine — The European Space Agency (ESA) appears to have broken a deadlock with Europe’s launch industry by agreeing to guarantee that its governments will order seven missions to launch between 2021 and 2023 on the new Ariane 6 rocket.
Not all these missions have been identified yet, which is why ESA had hesitated in making the commitment. But faced with the equivalent of a work stoppage by Ariane 6’s industrial contractors, the agency’s ruling council on April 17 unanimously agreed to make the commitment nonetheless.
ESA Director of Launchers Daniel Neuenschwander said the agency has committed to finding the seven missions — several have already been allocated — by the time of ESA’s ministerial conference, called Space 19+, scheduled for Nov. 28-29 in Seville, Spain.
Ariane 6 prime contractor ArianeGroup said the agreement, reached with unanimous support of ESA governments, appears to be enough to start production of the 14 Ariane 6 vehicles to be launched during that period.
“This is very good news,” said Andre-Hubert Roussel, chief executive of ArianeGroup. Roussel said that once he receives formal written confirmation of the agreement, he will issue ATPs — authorizations to proceed — to the Ariane 6 supply chain to begin work.
Several weeks later, contracts will be signed for 14 Ariane 6 rockets to be built during what ESA has designated as the Ariane 6 transition phase, 2021-2023, when the current Ariane 5 heavy-lift vehicle will be phased out and production of the Ariane 6 will ramp.
ESA and the Ariane 6 contractors agreed that there was an urgency to resolving the outstanding issues given that it will take about two years to produce the first of these 14 rockets.
ESA and the Ariane 6 industrial team had already agreed to the production of a single Ariane 6 rocket, a demonstration flight in mid-2020. None of the other vehicles have been ordered pending an ESA commitment that Ariane 6 industrial suppliers said was indispensable to their making a firm first-batch order of 14 rockets.
Under this schedule, Roussel said, the first of the 14 rockets will be ready for launch in the first half of 2021.
The European Commission and potentially other customers have signaled a need for Ariane 6 in mid-2021, a date that would have been difficult to meet if ESA had put off the seven-launch commitment until the November ministerial.
Neuenschwander said numerous other decisions on Ariane 6 and its future evolution — to reduce its production cost, consider a reusable first stage and a lighter upper stage — will await decisions at the Seville ministerial council.
The inaugural Ariane 6 to fly in mid-2020 will use the rocket’s lighter variant, the Ariane 62 with two strap-on boosters. That mission already has a commercial customer, the startup OneWeb, which is launching a constellation of more than 600 satellites. The heavier Ariane 64, with four boosters, will not fly until 2021.
ArianeGroup has said that the 64 version’s first launch may need to be priced at a discount and that ESA — which needs the 64 version for several of the agency’s missions — may have to provide financial support to the first mission to cover the difference between what the inaugural customer is willing to pay and what ArianeGroup and its Arianespace marketing arm would normally charge for Ariane 64.
Neuenschwander said ESA’s April 17 decision includes an agreement to consider a financial contribution to the Ariane 64’s inaugural flight in 2021 if the agency is unable to come up with the seven agreed-to Ariane 6 missions by the time of the November council.
“To be clear: We’ll consider this only if the seven launch contracts are not signed by the ministerial,” Neuenschwander said. But he said the Ariane 6 launch cadence and the “learning curve” effects are topics that will be addressed at the November conference.
Europe’s Vega small-satellite launcher is now 14 successes in 14 attempts. The upgraded Vega-C is scheduled to fly in the first half of 2020. Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace
ESA’s April 17 council also agreed to a formula for distributing launches between  the Ariane 62 and the Vega-C, an upgraded version of the light-lift Vega rocket that has conducted 14 launches, all successful. Vega-C’s prime contractor is Avio SpA of Italy.
With the smallsat market emerging as the most dynamic segment of the satellite business, the capacity overlap between Vega-C and Ariane 62 has become a possible point of contention between the two rockets.
Neuenschwander said ESA payloads below 200 kilograms in launch mass would be assigned to whichever of the two rockets has the first launch availability. Payloads between 200 and 2,350 kilograms would be assigned to Vega-C, and payloads above 2,350 kilograms would be assigned to Ariane 6.

Satellite navigation system operators seek a plan for traffic and debris management; South Korea to be 7th constellation

Four global constellations and three regional systems are either in orbit or on the way. Credit: U.S. State Department
PARIS — Keeping up with the neighbors has motivated many national space efforts and that appears to be a primary motivation for South Korea’s planned seven-satellite regional positioning, navigation and timing system.
Korea’s Korea Positioning System (KPS) will be the seventh satellite network devoted to navigation and it may be the last.
Current system providers — the United States, Russia, China, Europe, Japan and India — are now concerned that the inclined-geosynchronous and medium-Earth orbits used for these systems will require special traffic management and end-of-life disposal measures still to be negotiated. They have asked the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) to investigate options.
Credit: ICG
Seoul has been talking about KPS for several years but now has in the planning stages a first in-orbit-validation satellite to launch in 2027 into an elliptical and inclined geosynchronous orbit.
That will be followed by three more satellites in that orbit and three more in circular geostationary orbit, to to launch in time to reach full system operations in 2035, said Moon-Beom Heo of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).
Credit: KARI
Heo told the March 25-27 Munich Satellite Navigation Summit that  Korea is grating under its dependence on the U.S. GPS system and wants a network under full national control, with higher precision.
“Neighboring countries around Korea — the United States, Europe, Russia, China, Japan and India — are operating or constructing heir own satellite navigation systems,” Heo said. The goal: Establish “a proprietary satellite navigation system as a fundamental and efficient infrastructure in order to reduce GPS error — 10-15 meters.”
Credit: National Space Technology Directorate of Japan
 
As described, KPS closely resembles Japan’s Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS). It would cover a region within a 1,000-kilometer radius of the Korean peninsula.
After several years of program uncertainty, Japan is reading it expansion of QZSS. Initial service from the Michibiki satellite at 127 degrees east in geostationary orbit and three satellites in highly inclined, elliptical orbit was inaugurated in November 2018.
QZSS is intended to complement the U.S. GPS service and provide augmented performance and a messaging service in a large area of the Asia-Pacific stretching east to Alaska and west to the edge of the Middle East.
Japan has long been a provider of space-based GPS augmentation with its MSAS service, which uses the MTSat satellite that entered operations in 2007.
Go Takizawa, executive director for QZSS strategy at the National Space Policy Directorate in the government’s Cabinet Office, said MTSat’s role in the network will end in 2020, when its replacement satellite, called QZS-3, will enter service.
The final three elliptical-orbit satellites will be launched to enable the full seven-satellite constellation to begin operations in 2023, Takizawa said.
The U.S. State Department, after initial resistance to the proliferation of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) beyond GPS, is now seeking GNSS orbital infrastructure providers to make their systems mutually compatible and interoperable.
David A. Turner, deputy director for space and advanced technology at the State Department, told the conference that the U.S. goal remains a global navigation system of systems to ensure maximum benefit from the multiple networks built or being planned.
Well over 100 GNSS satellites are operating in close proximity in medium-Earth orbit. They need a retirement plan that is more than just shutting down and staying there. Credit: OHB SE
Under the auspices of the United Nations, providers of GNSS satellite networks have formed the International Committee on GNSS (ICG). Its members include the European Union, China, Russia, India and Japan. Australia, which is planning a GPS augmentation system, is a new member.
Turner said the United States and Japan are coordinating frequency use for QZSS at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and have created a technical working group to discuss compatibility and interoperability issues.
Turner said a U.S.-South Korea meeting is planned for later this year to begin similar talks on KPS.
GNSS satellite providers have largely avoided the issue of orbital-debris mitigation, especially as regards the four global GNSS networks — U.S. GPS, Russia’s Glonass, China’s BeiDou and Europe’s Galileo.
More than 100 satellites from these systems are operational now and all of them are in medium-Earth orbit with an altitude of between 19,100 kilometers and 23,222 kilometers. Other navigation satellites are in inclined geosynchronous orbit.
How these satellites should be retired, and where, is still unresolved.

France’s Nexeya sells off most non-space assets to focus on smallsats; sees ‘rapid growth’ in New Space

Nexeya’s Hemeria platform. Credit: Nexeya
PARIS — French diversified mission-management solutions provider Nexeya, which is the planned prime contractor for the 20-satellite Kineis M2M/IoT constellation, is selling most of its non-space business to focus on its cubesat product line.
In a clear signal of Nexeya’s belief in the smallsat market — despite what industry officials said is the continued difficulty of Nexeya to close its financial round of 100 million euros ($114 million) — Nexeya has agreed to sell its transport and energy business to sensor-solutions provider Hensoldt.
The terms of the transaction, which is expected to clear regulatory approvals by September, were not disclosed. Hensoldt said it is acquiring assets that generated 95 million euros in revenue in 2018 and employed 620 people.
Nexeya said its space division and those piece of its defense work that is remaining with the company reported 2018 revenue of 36 million euros with a staff of 200 people. The company will be renamed Hemeria, after Nexeya’s cubesat product.
“Rapid growth in these [revenue]numbers is expected over the next three years,” Nexeya said in a statement April 12. “This growth will be driven in particular by multiple projects related to orbiting nano or micro satellites. Hemeria’s offer — nano satellites and subsets of larger satellites — will allow it to take full advantage of the opportunities generated by “New Space.”
Nexeya’s first full satellite, called Angels, is under development with the French space agency, CNES, and expected to launch later this year.
Angels is a next-generation Argos asset-tracking satellite and will be integrated into the business of established maritime asset-tracking company CLS. CLS, which is partly owned by CNES, is managing the Kineis project: http://bit.ly/2UK2F67
Franco-Italian satellite prime contractor Thales Alenia Space is also involved with Kineis and views the project and Nexeya as a spearhead of a French New Space sector. But for the moment Thales Alenia Space is not an investor in Kineis.
“We are very pleased with the dynamic of our strategic refocusing,” Nexeya Chief Executive Philippe Gautier, Chairman Jean-Yves Riviere and Managing Director Jerome Giraud said in a joint statement.
“It will allow us… to accelerate the development of the French nano satellite sector that we are building with the involvement of all our partners, and to underpin our other activities with a developing European group, whose values and objectives we share.”

Satellite M2M/IoT constellation startup Sky and Space Global, with 2 months’ cash left, seeks shareholder support

Sky and Space Global has launched three demonstration satellites. It needs substantial new financing, and soon, to begin launching its commercial M2M/IoT constellation in 2020. Credit: GomSpace
UPDATE April 18: Sky and Space Global said it expects to be in compliance with the ASX trading rule requiring two board members to be residents of Australia by May 3, at which time it will resume trading and pursue its Tranche 2 and Priority Offer of shares to raise 7.4 million Australian dollars.
PARIS — Startup M2M/IoT constellation operator Sky and Space Global (SAS) said it has enough cash to operate for just two more months and is counting on a new share issue to buy it more time.
The share offer has been complicated by the resignation of two board members, an event that has removed SAS from the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) until it finds replacements who are Australian residents.
In another blow, the lead manager for the share offer, Taylor Collison Limited; and corporate advisor Chieftain Securities Pty Ltd., have cancelled their agreement to underwrite a combined 3 million Australian dollars ($2.11) of SAS’s Priority Offer.
Both will continue in their respective roles as lead manager and corporate advisor.
SAS on April 16 issued a Supplemental Prospectus for its share offering to reflect the most recent negotiations with satellite builder GomSpace of Denmark. GomSpace and SAS have set a mid-May deadline for the agreement to convert to a binding contract.
Under the new agreement, GomSpace will begin work on a second constellation of 6U-size cubesats in inclined orbit to provide broader geographic coverage than what is offered by the 3U Pearls constellation of 200 satellites, in equatorial orbit:
http://bit.ly/2vcSYhf
This new constellation of eight satellites would be built while work on the original, 200-satellite network was continuing at GomSpace.
In its Supplemental Prospectus, SAS said its latest trading halt on the ASX, on April 4, is likely to continue until it conforms to ASX rules requiring that at least two board members living in Australia.
The resignation of board members Michael Malone and Di Fulton was announced April 9. SAS said it has begun the search for replacements, and that their resignation “has no implications on its business plan for the launch of the first batch of operational satellites by early 2020.”
The company did not explain why Taylor Collison and Chieftain Securities withdrew their underwriting support. Brett Mitchell, a former SAS director, owns 33% of Chieftain’s equity.
SAS announced in February its plan to raise 12 million Australian dollars in new equity, in two tranches. The first, valued at 7.8 million Australian dollars, was completed. The second was supposed to occur in April.
Given the restructured GomSpace agreement, the withdrawal of underwriting support from the lead manager and the resignation of two board members, SAS has offered shareholders who have already subscribed the opportunity to withdrawal their investment in the Priority Offer and Tranche 2 Offer, with a deadline of May 16. The Priority Offer offer will go forward, but will no longer have a minimum subscription rate given the Taylor Collison/Chieftain withdrawal.
SAS’s ongoing operating expenses are about 500,000 Australian dollars per month. It said it will need to raise at least 90% of the 7.2 million Australian dollars offered under the Tranche 2 placement of 4.2 million Australian dollars and the Priority Offer of 3 million Australian dollars.
If it fails to reach the 90% subscription rate, it will need to seek alternative financing almost immediately.

China’s new-generation BeiDou-3, with 2-way messaging, goes global in 2020 with 3 satellite launches this year

The third iteration of China’s BeiDou satellite navigation system is expected to be completed by 2020. Credit: China Satellite Navigation Office
PARIS — The China Satellite Navigation Office expects to complete the buildout of its third-generation BeiDou positioning, navigation and timing — plus 2-way messaging — network by 2020 with the launch of three satellites this year.
The satellites, once in service, will complete the four-year BeiDou-3 (BDS-3) development phase, which has already seen the launch of 14 medium-Earth-orbit satellites and, most recently, a geostationary-orbit satellite launched in November.
The navigation office in December declared the primary BDS-3 system completed despite the coming launch and verification of the GEO-orbit satellites.
The spacecraft launched in November is still in test phase and is expected to be validated for service by June, said Jun Shen, deputy director of the navigation office, in a presentation to the March 25-27 Munich Satellite Navigation Summit.
The three GEO satellites — to operate from 80 degrees East, 100.5 East and 140 East — will make up the space-based augmentation system for the BeiDou MEO-orbit fleet and offer CAT-1 precision approach for commercial aircraft in China and the surrounding region.
The three satellites will also provide short messaging capability for the region, with a capacity of up to 10 million messages per hour with an average message size of 14 kilobits.
A global short-message service from BeiDou, with lower capacity, is scheduled for introduction after its 14 MEO-orbit satellites are in orbit. Eight of them have been launched, and are being tested, Shen said. The system’s capacity is 200,000 messages per hour at 560 bits per message.
China is promoting market adoption of BeiDou devices. Credit: China Satellite Navigation Office
BDS-3’s Search and Rescue service, using standards developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Cospas-Sarsat organization, will be provided from six MEO-orbit satellites carrying Search-and-Rescue payloads.
Two of these MEO satellites have been launched with four more coming soon, Shen said, without being more precise.
Finally, BDS-3 2ill offer precise-point positioning service through the three GEO-orbit satellites covering China and its environs. Shen said the service will include the broadcast of precision-positioning information from several navigation systems.
China and the United States in 2017 signed a statement agreeing that BeiDou and the U.S. GPS systems would be mutually compatible and interoperable. In 2018, China signed a cooperating agreement with Russia regarding the Russian Glonass positioning, navigation and timing network.
China is undertaking many of the same market-stimulation efforts for BeiDou as Europe is for its Galileo satellite navigation network. Shen said high-precision BeiDou products are now available in 90 nations, and that 6 minion buses and other speciality road vehicles, plus 30,000 postal vehicles, have been equipped.

Intelsat IS-29e satellite suffers fuel leak, loses communications capacity; customers being relocated

Intelsat 29e carries 9.4 GHz of Ku-band downlink capacity mainly used for HTS spot beams for aeronautical and maritime broadband service in the North Atlantic, and in North and South America. It is also equipped with a trans-Atlantic Ku-band beam to overlay the spot beams, and with 24 C-band transponders and 450 MHz of Ka-band. Credit: Intelsat
UPDATED APRIL 9 WITH FULLER INTESAT STATEMENT: Intelsat says two events, one April 7 and another April 9, have caused the outage.
PARIS — The Intelsat 29e satellite, in service for just three years, has suffered a fuel leak that put the satellite into a slow tumble and force the shutdown of its communications payload, industry officials said.
The satellite, which is part of Intelsat’s Epic-class fleet of spacecraft carrying high-throughput-capacity (HTS) Ku-band, covers both North and South America and has HTS coverage over the North Atlantic for maritime and aeronautical broadband coverage. It operates from 50 degrees west in geostationary orbit.
One industry official, admitting only limited knowledge, said it appeared likely that Intelsat and the satellite’s manufacturer, Boeing Satellite Systems International, would be able to stop the tumble and return IS-29e to stable pointing mode. But a loss in the expected service life of 15 years is all but certain.
Officials said the satellite was insured for launch plus limited in-orbit operations but now carries no insurance cover.
In response to Space Intel Report queries, Intelsat issued the following statement on April 9:
“Our Intelsat 29e satellite recently suffered an anomaly in the propulsion system that caused the satellite to lose Earth-lock.  As designed, once earth lock is lost, the safety systems on the satellite system take over and shut down the communications payload. 
“As a result, our customers are currently experiencing an interruption in service.  We have been in direct and active communications with all impacted customers to identify and implement service restoration plans.  We are working closely with the satellite manufacturer, Boeing, to quickly resolve this issue and get our customers back on line as quickly as possible.”
The Intelsat 32e satellite has coverage that overlaps IS-29e over the North Atlantic. Credit: Intelsat
Intelsat issued a public statement that refers to two separate events that led to the loss of communications but without specifying what damage caused the initial fuel leak:
“Late on 7 April, the Intelsat 29e propulsion system experienced damage that caused a leak of the propellant on board the satellite resulting in a service disruption to customers on the satellite.  While working to restore the services, on 9 April, the satellite experienced a second anomaly that caused a loss of communications to the satellite.  Communication with the satellite has been intermittent. Intelsat continues to work with the satellite’s manufacturer, Boeing, on recovering communication.  The Intelsat customer-facing team is focused on migrating customer services from Intelsat 29e to other Intelsat satellites serving the region, as well as third party services.
Intelsat has a large fleet and likely will be able to shift customers to other Intelsat-operated satellites, but the company is also using third-party satellites. In particular, Intelsat’s IS-32e, launched in February 2017, has coverage designed to provide backup for IS-29e. It is located 7 degrees away, at 43 degrees west.

C-Band Alliance of U.S. satellite operators spells out its offer to customers if the FCC OKs the deal

Credit: Satellite Center
PARIS — The C-Band Alliance of U.S. satellite operators has sent binding commitment letters to customers guaranteeing that the alliance will cover the costs of transitioning from the current 500-MHz of spectrum to 300 MHz following the sale of spectrum to 5G mobile network operators.
The costs to satellite C-band customers include adding filters to every one of their antennas to prevent interference from 5G broadcasts in the lower 200 MHz of the 3.7-4.2-GHz band that satellite operators now use.
How many antennas would be affected is uncertain, as not all antenna operators registered with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Estimates have run as high as 100,000 in the continental United States.
In an April 3 filing with the FCC, the C-Band Alliance (CBA) lays out what it expects would be the cost of transitioning its customers’ antenna sites to the new 300-MHz spectrum available to them if the FCC accepts the CBA proposal.
The FCC has set no deadline for ruling on the CBA proposal, which would result in several billion dollars of proceeds to the CBA members from the spectrum sale. But a decision is expected this year.
The CBA members — Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat — have been vague about how much it will cost them to assure that their customers suffer no decline in broadcast service with the loss of 200 MHz of spectrum.
Intelsat has cited a figure of up to $2 billion, but that was before the CBA agreed to extend its spectrum-clearing offer to 200 MHz from 150 MHz. The figure would include the cost, to Intelsat and SES, of building and launching a combined eight C-band satellites using the 300-MHz spectrum allocation to assure no service degradation.
Selling the spectrum to 5G operators in a series of market transactions is expected to yield billions of dollars to the CBA members, principally Intelsat and SES. The CBA has told the FCC that its market-based solution would result in a quicker repurposing of spectrum for 5G than any alternative, and that only the CBA proposal specifically carves out compensation for existing C-band customers.
In its April 3 filing, the CBA said it would reimburse customers amounts estimated at $800 per dual-feed antenna, which would require two filters. The reimbursement would be $600 for a single-feed antenna.
For each antenna requiring a frequency change, reimbursement would be $100.
An operator needing to change its antennas’ polarization would receive $200 per antenna. Those needing to repoint their dishes to new satellite locations would receive $400 per antenna, including the filters.
For operators that cannot repoint their old equipment to the necessary satellite location, CBA will reimburse up to $3,700 per antenna.
Iin addition to the direct labor and equipment costs at each site, the CBA said it would finance the purchase of spare filters equivalent to 12% of the installed antenna base, to be stored for five years in case the original filters malfunction.
The April 3 FCC submission came after a mid-March binding commitment letter sent by Intelsat and SES — which together have more than a 90% share of the C-band business in the United States — to their customers.
The CBA has agreed to establish an escrow account that will hold the cash needed to refit customer sites. The account will be funded to 120% of the total estimated spectrum-clearing costs. Its funds will not be available to the CBA members for any other purpose than the customer transition expenses.
Once the C-band customers’ sites have been refitted, the escrow account will revert to the CBA members. But the alliance has further agreed to hold the equivalent of 10% of their spectrum-clearing funds for an additional three years.
It will decrease by one-third each year, with the remaining monies then being returned to the satellite operators.

Eutelsat strategy: Protect video where possible, and plot satellite IoT growth with Sigfox, satellite broadband with telcos

Eutelsat will use Sigfox frequencies and technical standards for its fleet of IoT satellites. Credit: Sigfox
PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat has decided to move forward with an initial constellation of low-orbiting, low-bandwidth IoT satellites as part of its partnership with terrestrial IoT provider Sigfox, with first batch of commercial satellites to be launched in 2020, Eutelsat Chief Executive Rodolphe Belmer said.
Eutelsat and Sigfox had already concluded an agreement in 2018 under which Eutelsat would launch a single proof-of-concept satellite and contracted with manufacturing Terran Orbital’s Tyvak International to build it.
That satellite is scheduled for launch this year. An industry official said Eutelsat had issued a request for proposals from industry for a batch of about 10 satellites that would debut commercial operations without a large capex investment. Another industry official said the first batch likely would be no more than six satellites and is intended to validate system performance in ways that cannot be done with a single spacecraft.
Addressing the Space Perspectives conference here April 2, organized by Euroconsult and France’s aerospace industry association, GIFAS, Belmer said the go-ahead for at least an initial commercial constellation is part of Eutelsat’s new strategy to compensate for the low growth in its historic video business.
Belmer said the strategy is very high-speed broadband for consumers and governments worldwide, starting with the Ka-band Konnect satellite to be launched this year for Europe and Africa, under construction by Thales Alenia Space.
A more-powerful Konnect-VHTS is under construction by the same manufacturer to cover Europe as part of an agreement with defense-electronics manufacturer Thales Group and France’s Orange telco. Belmer said Eutelsat was in negotiations with other European telcos to strike similar distribution deals.
Belmer said the advent of 5G terrestrial networks, offering speeds up to 10 times that of 4G, will heighten the contradictions between government promises and government delivery to rural areas and exacerbate the digital divide.
The mounting resentment of rural populations, which in France alone number 2 million or more, will force the hand of policy makers in Europe and elsewhere.
Belmer said 5G will feature a huge number of small cells that beat anything available today, on a capex-per-megabit basis. But large number of sites required in a given geography will limit the service to metropolitan areas. 5G network operators will not be able to afford the deployment of 5G in smaller towns and rural regions.
Enter satellite broadband. “The resentment people feel today about the digital divide will be even worse with 5G,” Belmer said. “The demand for alternative technologies will grow and satellites will emerge as the only technology able to reach these regions outside the 5G coverage.”
Belmer said most terrestrial wireless networks have not yet focused on the satellite link because they are concentrating on the main even, their urban and close-suburban markets.
Because of that, there is still work to do on 5G standards for satellite systems and chipsets to be compatible and fully integrated with 5G networks. “This discussion will have to happen,” he said.
Several other companies, including broadband providers Viasat Inc. and Hughes Network Systems of the United States, have come to the same conclusion.
The 500-million-euro ($572-million) Konnect-VHTS project was blessed by the French government, but Belmer warned that European user-terminal manufacturers were will unable to make terminals of the same quality and price point as Viasat and Hughes.
He suggested it was unclear whether French or European providers, such as Thales Group — an experienced provider of higher-cost military terminals — would be able to raise their game in time to be part of the Konnect VHTS ecosystem in 2021.
At the other end of the throughput spectrum is IoT. Belmer said here the goal is to complement Sigfox’s terrestrial low power terminal coverage in regions Sigfox has not reached, including maritime applications.
The Eutelsat project, called ELO For Eutelsat LEO for Objects, will use Sigfox-compatible frequencies and chipsets.

Satellite C-Band Alliance seems to have won over FCC’s O’Rielly. But how close is he to the agency’s consensus?

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly seems increasingly won over by the C-Band Alliance’s argument. It’s unclear how close his views are to a consensus at the agency. Credit: C-Span
PARIS — U.S. Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly gave what sounded like a stamp of approval to a satellite industry proposal to sell off a portion of satellite-dedicated C-band spectrum to terrestrial wireless networks in a private auction.
O’Rielly doesn’t decide things at the FCC, and it is uncertain whether he was letting his own hopes get in the way of his assessment of where the satellite operators’ C-Band Alliance (CBA) stood at the agency.
Here are excerpts of his remarks, delivered March 26 at the Free State Foundation conference in Washington, D.C.
— The CBA proposal of Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat “is still in the lead” among the competing ideas for ceding a 200 MHz of the 3.7-4.2-GHz spectrum to 5G network operators.
O’Rielly made clear he didn’t think the U.S. Congress would be able to put assemble legislation on a competing spectrum-cession proposal anytime soon given the issue’s complexity.
“I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it’s a heavy lift” for Congress, O’Rielly said.
— He doesn’t care about whether this results in a “windfall” for the satellite operators, so long as a deal gets done quickly and treats C-band broadcasters fairly.
O’Rielly pointed to six “fires” that the proposal needs to extinguish to reach a consensus on the deal: the broadcaster issue, cable industry concerns, the amount of spectrum to be freed up, the exact form the auction will take, and the size of each of the licenses won at auction.
“I would prefer that there weren’t six fires going, but it’s a lot of money and a lot of spectrum and it’s the prime band,” O’Rielly said.
He said broadcasters’ concern about being left with a lesser service after the auction “is solvable. It’s just a matter of whether they have been taken care of. I think that’s doable.”
The CBA’s two largest members, Intelsat and SES, have said they would launch a combined eight new C-band satellites and refit with filters thousands of antennas to assure signals in the remaining spectrum are not interfered with by the spectrum that is sold to 5G operators.
Any holdouts among current C-band licensees would be a problem
— Any holdouts among satellite operators that are currently C-band licensees “becomes incredibly problematic,” O’Rielly said. “It’s not just 10%, is a full-band, full arc [spectrum authorization], so it’s a much more complicated holdout issue. We do not have a history of withdrawing licenses against someone’s interest.”
— Asked whether the fact that the satellite operators will be making a killing by selling spectrum they don’t own is a concern of his, he said: “No.”
A related proposal would have the CBA return a percentage of their auction proceeds to the FCC as a token of their appreciation for the fact that they are auctioning off public spectrum.
O’Rielly dismissed this. “Look’ we don’t have authority to take 10% or whatever percent from the windfall side,” he said. “I don’t really appreciate those scenarios where there is some negotiated ‘Just Send the Money This Way.’”
O’Rielly was an early proponent of pushing the satellite operators to make more than 200 MHz of spectrum available. The fleet operators said with every new swath added to the mix, complexities multiply in providing incumbent broadcasters a similar level of service.
O’Rielly seems to have accepted that reasoning, up to a point.
“The question I pose, which is still outstanding, is what’s it going to take to do more. Four hundred MHz seems like a heavy lift. Cable and broadcasters want to be taken care of in C-band. They don’t want to move to Ku. I can see a harder lift to get above 300 MHz. After 300 MHz it gets really hard and I am still trying to figure out how hard it is between 200 and 300 MHz.”

Commercial satellite relay startup Audacy charts the way forward after likely loss of inaugural prototype

The Audacy team. CEO Ralph Ewig is fourth from left. Credit: Audacy
PARIS — Start-up Ka-band intersatellite-relay service provider Audacy’s first satellite, Audacy Zero, was one of the 60-plus customers aboard the Spaceflight-managed SSO-A launch in December aboard a dedicated SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
There has been no communications from the satellite since then, and while Audacy still hopes to be able to identify its satellite in orbit, four months after launch it looks like the satellite will be lost.
Audacy Zero, the first Ka-band cubesat to launch, was always intended as a prototype to be followed by a more-sophisticated version to be launched to the International Space Station. That launch has now been delayed to sometime this  year.
Audacy received a U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) operating license in June 2008, an event that helped trigger funding of around $11.1 million. Backers include Fidelity Investments’ Eight Roads Ventures, InnoSpring Seed Fund, Metatron Global and the Stanford StartX Fund.
Audacy says it has recently raised another $2 million through a convertible note. The company has signed letters of intent valued at more than $100 million with customers who think the idea of a three-satellite constellation in medium Earth orbit to handle downloads for thousands of satellites in lower orbit is a good idea.
Space Intel Report submitted two sets of questions to Audacy about its post-Audacy Zero status. Following is a condensed version of the company’s responses:
Audacy O is one of several SSOA-launched satellites that haven’t checked in. What is its status?
Unfortunately, we still don’t have a definite final identification. We’ve been able to narrow it down to 5 potential choices, with 2 strong front runners. There are still a couple of communication methods we are exploring, but it is looking likely at this point that we have a technical anomaly on the satellite. 
You’ve narrowed it down to a couple of leading choices for which satellite is yours, or narrowed down the possible causes of the non-communication? 
It’s narrowing down the possible IDs of the satellites that may be Audacy Zero.
At what point will the battery run down?
We fully tested Audacy Zero’s power system before launch, showing that the solar arrays should automatically deploy and start charging the batteries soon after deployment. Aside from an unexpected failure, we expect the battery to recharge and work well for about a year. 
What lessons do you draw from this — that adding RFID tags on follow ons would be advisable, or some other method to be able to distinguish it from other satellites? This is an industry-wide debate.
Matching signals to spacecraft, or tracked objects in space, can be very challenging with small satellites whizzing overhead with only a few minutes of communications access per day on their ground stations. We’ve heard many operators mention receiving signals from their satellites but not knowing exactly where they are.
Their ground stations are often custom-built, or do not have consistent standards for communicating with and tracking spacecraft. From what we’ve seen and experienced, there is a definite need to develop a consistent real-time communications network to simplify communicating with and identifying spacecraft. We plan to solve this problem using relay satellites to enable real-time communications and tracking for any satellite operator on our network.
How big a setback is this for your business plan?
Our goal for Audacy Zero was to develop a deeper understanding of the communications problems that our customers face. Audacy Zero was an experiment as the first fully Ka-band cubesat ever launched. We knew that there was a significant risk, but we didn’t fully appreciate the additional complexity in diagnosing any potential issues introduced by sharing the launch with so many other satellites.
Audacy Zero satellite. Credit: Audacy
In a way, we see this experience as further validation of the need for a standard space communications solution like the terrestrial mobile phone network, which has the means to uniquely identify any subscriber. 
Audacy’s relay network will certainly provide this type of capability once operational, but until that’s up and running, differentiating between individual payloads deployed in large shared missions will remain an issue that could drive people away from shared launch opportunities and toward dedicated small launchers instead. 
Audacy 0 was to be followed by the more-powerful Audacy Lynq, a payload to be launched to the International Space Station. What is its status?
The lessons learned from Audacy Zero have been valuable in the ongoing development of our radio for the space-based relays. We are taking those lessons and applying them to Audacy Lynq, which will feature the second version of our Ka-band radio that is scheduled to go to ISS later this year. 
That launch had been set for 2018. What caused the delay, and how firm is the late-2019 launch date?
The timeline for Audacy Lynq was pushed back as we wanted to incorporate the lessons that we learnt from Audacy Zero and make design changes to this second version going up to the ISS. We have not fixed a date but the expectation is to have it up by late this year. We have also experienced unexpected regulatory delays due to the novel and innovative nature of the Lynq mission.
You had planned to select a prime for its system by the end of 2018. Has that happened and if so, who is it and what’s the development schedule?
We have selected a prime to build a prototype of the relay satellite RF payload this year, but it is still a competitive process on who will be the final integrator so we can’t share with whom we are working with at this time. Our next milestone will be to evaluate the performance of the resulting hardware in ground testing, and then make a final commitment on the satellite build after that is completed.
It’s important to differentiate these two components in Audacy’s Network Architecture — the relay-satellite constellation, and the client terminal.
The relay-satellite constellation refers to the three MEO satellites that act like cellphone towers in space. The prime we referred to was the prime to build a prototype of the relay-satellite RF payload.
Do your future customers need to purchase terminals from you to enable their satellites to communicate with your MEO constellation? 
There are three options for clients to link to the Audacy network. The first is to  integrate the Audacy client terminal on their spacecraft. The second is to design their spacecraft’s communications system to comply with the Audacy Interface Control Document. The third is to reprogram a deployed spacecraft on orbit to achieve Audacy compatibility.
Audacy Zero was the first iteration of the client terminal and the ISS mission, Audacy Lynq, will be the second version of the client terminal. 
Audacy’s 7-meter antenna. Credit: Audacy
Last I checked you had raised some $11 million, with a Series B round in the works. Where are you now?
We have closed an additional $2 million in funding via a convertible note over the last 3 months, with participation from both existing and several new institutional investors. However, we are still in ongoing discussions to identify the right lead investor for our next round of equity funding. 
 And your ground station status? 
We have a sub-scale 2.4-meter teleport fully deployed and operational in Napa Valley, California. We’ve also completed factory acceptance testing of our first two 7-m antennas and expect ground-based commercial services to be operational later this year after they have been successfully deployed in the field. 

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